Monday, January 16, 2012

Adios to Panama!

A wonderful country! I visited Panama 20 years ago but never saw it like this. First, it was wonderful to be with my siblings and niece, and second we got to discover many incredible critters.
Here I am giving gifts to the Embera children, in a canoe on the way to see them, watching sister Janet connect with an Embera child, and me, the gringo, enjoying a local Panamanian family fair.

Embera-Wounaan tribe Dances

This wonderful tribe greeted us with music and a dance.

Embera-Wounaan Pets

The Embera found a River otter and made it a pet. While niece Clara was swimming, it brushed against her leg -- scary! The otter doesn't bite, though, and just goes swimming then makes its way back home for loving and food. The other image is another type of pet but I have no clue what it is...any guesses?

Embera-Wounaan Scenes

These are scenes from the Embera and their village/daily lives: Cooking plantains, serving them with fish, and the village itself, including the gift shop with their baskets, carving and jewelry.

Embera-Wounaan of Panama

The Embera-Wounaans are one of 7 indigenous groups living in Panama. This tribe numbers close to 35,000 and mostly live in the Darien region, near Columbia. They live in small villages of several families and continue traditional living habits. They use plants for medicinal purposes, including to keep body hair from growing on male and female children - this is partially so that they can use other plants for temporary tattoos to keep insects away. We visited a village of 113 that is closer to Panama City - a great trip on a canoe up the river. Here the are the beautiful women, one on the river and the other demonstrating basket making. They use plants for dying shredded leaves - gorgeous work.

Panamanian Jungle

Here are some views of this beautiful countryside.

Turkey Vulture Looking for Tasty Bite

This is a Turkey Vulture hunting above the canopy in the Panamanian forrest. So graceful and such a beautiful vista from the top of the Canopy Tower Hotel.

Howler Monkeys in Panama

These are Howler Monkeys. See the baby leaning on the papa? What a cute family, but they make a really amazing sound. At night and in early morning you can hear the howling, sounding like dogs howling at the moon. Very loud. You can hear them howl on Wikipedia - who maintains that their howls can be heard for 20 miles! They hang out and run around the tree tops, using their tails to grab onto branches.

Capuchin Monkeys

These cute little monkeys are Capuchins - name so because they look like cappuchino coffee. We saw them on  a boat trip on Lake Gatun, the man made lake supporting the Panama Canal. We parked our little boat and they became quite curious - eventually finding a peanut on our boat. At one point I reached up to touch one and it slapped my hand hard. We were told NOT to smile because it appears as an agressive teeth baring gesture the monkeys use to fend off each other and predators. Cute AND wild.

Leafcutter ants

These Leafcutter ants are fascinating. Here I caught them climbing up a tree, then cutting off a piece of the leaf, and hauling it back down to the nest. Fungus grows on the leaves and fungi are what the ants love to eat. According to Wikipedia, "Next to humans, leafcutter ants form the largest and most complex animal societies on Earth." Their nests can grow to 98 feet across and contain 8 million of these insects.

Little critters

Our first wild animal sighting was at Santa Clara beach. Four wild kitties. Of course, we couldn't resist buying them a can of fish to eat. They became quite used to us and even cuddled some.

From Sea to Shining Sea

THE Panama Canal is amazing. 51 miles from Pacific to Carribean, it carries much commercial product distribution AND people. The tolls range based on weight and such, varying from $331,000 to $0.36 (for a skinny swimmer). It was a thrill to see how the ships go into the Miraflores lock from Lake Gatun (manmade by flooding the valleys, making mountains into islands). The ship hangs out for about 10 minutes while the lock drains to the level of the next lock (or sea) and then the gate opens, as in the image. The canal was built by USA  in 1914 after a failed attempt and turned over to Panama management in December 1999. The Panamanians are doing a great job and are now building a new set of locks for 2014 opening to accommocate larger/longer ships than the current "Panamax" size. Incredible engineering feat.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Groceries in Panama

Interesting how food is packaged in different countries. In the Panama grocery store I found laundry detergent in plastic wrap instead of cardboard boxes....and the chocolate SHOULD be repackaged to handle this heat and humidity. Check out the melted Hershey's :-)...good thing cuz I certainly don't need more chocolate...

This looks like a Panamanian favorite: EIGHT different flavors of SPAM (how creative). You can get with Cheese, Garlic, Pavo, black Pepper, two kinds of chopped, and for the health conscious: 25% less sodium or 50% less fat (yeah, right). If you aren't into Spam, you can get vienna sausages (on the left) or Pork Luncheon meat (on the right). Just what this vegetarian was seeking!! NOT.... 

To the Beach in Panama!

How wonderful to visit Santa Clara Beach on Panama's pacific coast...warm, beautiful and relaxing. Just what a hard working girl needs! It is a sibling trip and we are staying at the lovely Las Sirenas cottages (below). The temperature ranges from 75 to 93 degrees F. NICE...The island in this picture is called "Noriega's Island" because he allegedly used it to torture victims. His compound was just across the water on shore and was totally bombed out.